Frank Lewis & Bob Strickley
PDT Staff Writers
Residents of the Hudson House on Fifth Street in Portsmouth heard shots ring out Saturday morning and raced for safety as a man fired several rounds and then barricaded himself in his fifth floor room. Portsmouth Police Chief Rob Ware said approximately 20-25 shots were fired through the door of his apartment, many of them going into the apartment across the hallway.
Eventually peacefully removed from the building due to the efforts of several police negotiators, including Portsmouth Police Department Detective Andy Dawes, was 63-year-old John Locher.
Authorities quickly arrived and evacuated the woman trapped in the apartment at the receiving end of the gunfire while creating a three-block perimeter around the apartment complex. The woman was removed from the building through a window via a Portsmouth Fire Department ladder truck. Many residents were moved to the lobby for safety.
The shots and subsequent standoff with authorities began at a little before 11 a.m. and several law enforcement agencies gathered in the parking lot and surrounding streets of the Hudson House.
A Special Response Team from the Ohio State Highway Patrol arrived on the scene around around 2 p.m. and brought with them a specialized robot. A short time later the team entered the building with the robot and reportedly staged on the fifth floor.
A source told the Daily Times that one female resident of the Hudson House was transported by ambulance away from the scene. Ware later confirmed the woman was the resident in the apartment that received the gunfire. She was not injured from the incident.
For about five hours, law enforcement kept Locher at bay. The incident, which was called into the dispatcher at 10:51 a.m., ended peacefully at approximately 4:15 p.m. after a series of negotiations.
“Our dispatcher received a call from a resident on the fifth floor of the Hudson House, a high rise Portsmouth Metropolitan Housing Authority complex, of shots fired into her apartment,” Ware said. “Officers arrived and confirmed that shots had been fired, and subsequently they took on additional shots fired into the door of the fifth floor apartment of John Locher, 63. They secured the area, evacuated the fifth floor, and called in additional assets.”
Those assets included more police officers from the Portsmouth Police Department, the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office, and the OSHP Special Response Team.
Ware said the OSHP negotiators joined Dawes in negotiation efforts with Locher. Meanwhile, the OSHP brought the robot which was used for surveillance and communication purposes.
“The negotiator for the Portsmouth Police Department did an outstanding job, as did all the officers assigned to this incident today,” Ware said. “And we were eventually able to talk Mr. Locher into surrendering.”
During the time of the standoff when the woman across the hall from Locher’s apartment was unable to leave, the dispatcher kept her calm.
“Our dispatcher did a really good job of staying on the line with her, and getting the necessary assets dispatched to assist, including the Portsmouth Fire Department who used the ladder truck to take her out of her apartment through the fifth floor window,” Ware said. “She was transported to the hospital, obviously traumatized, but with no apparent injuries.”
Ware said Locher had no previous records.
“Mr. Locher is a combat veterans with no prior criminal history,” Ware said. “We were able to determine that he had a long gun a couple of handguns, and obviously had fired many rounds out of those.”
Ware said Locher was transported for a mental health evaluation, but said he could not comment on any speculation as to his mental health history.
“We will wait and see how that plays out,” Ware said.
Ware took the opportunity to commend the Portsmouth Metropolitan Housing Authority staff for their cooperation with law enforcement and the residents of Hudson House, Portsmouth Ambulance and the Salvation Army for providing support.
“I just want to commend the Portsmouth Police Department, the Scioto County Sheriff’s Department, the Ohio State (Highway) Patrol, and the Portsmouth Fire Department for the job that they did today,” Peggy Rice, Director of the Portsmouth Metropolitan Housing Authority, said. “It is only through well-trained employees at those agencies that the people of the city are comfortable. You never want to need them, but it’s nice to know they are there and they are good at the job they do.”
Portsmouth Mayor David Malone arrived on the scene minutes after the incident ended to lend support.
“I’m very proud that this whole thing resolved with a good resolution,” Malone said. “And I was told the department did very well, the negotiating team did very well. Detective Dawes who was actually the negotiator was excellent, and I’m just glad that everybody was safe.”
Ware said there were no charges yet, pending the mental evaluation.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT. Bob Strickley can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 296, or email@example.com. For breaking news, follow Bob on Twitter @rjstrickleyjr. PDT Staff Writer Wayne Allen also contributed to this story.